Pillar 1: Build AWARENESS and a Supportive Culture
Learn about strategies for spreading awareness about mental health issues and ensuring a supportive workplace culture.
Proven strategies for building a mentally healthy workplace include educating workers on mental health issues and substance use disorders and taking action to foster a supportive workplace culture, including encouraging workers to seek help if needed.
Train Your Management
One of the best ways to build awareness about workplace mental health is through manager education. So, empower your managers and supervisors to recognize warning signs and promote a culture of support and inclusion.
Whether delivered through live workshops, webinars or other formats, trainings should educate managers on recognizing signs of stress in employees and how to respond and support workers in their recovery. In addition, they should cover strategies for increasing one’s own mental health and wellbeing and identifying potential substance use disorders in themselves, which in turn fosters a positive work environment.
Remember to help develop your managers’ soft skills when relating to colleagues and their mental health needs. Addressing substance use disorders takes great tact and awareness as well. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers an instructive video to demonstrate effective tactics for managing an employee with a substance use disorder. It takes strong communication skills and emotional intelligence to create a positive psychological environment that promotes mental wellbeing.
Other promising practices in this pillar include the following:
- Offer mentoring, coaching and peer support to your employees.
- Conduct mental health awareness training and inform employees of available resources.
- Provide mental health and substance use disorder screening and access to secondary and tertiary treatment. (See Pillar 4)
- Provide flexible work arrangements such as flex-scheduling and telecommuting, as well as work-life balance programs.
- Offer fitness programs to improve employees’ physical health, which in turn promotes positive mental health. Include a range of activities from exercises to team sports to informative sessions on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition, ergonomic and fitness advice.
- Offer employees stress management training to develop relaxation, mindfulness and resiliency skills to manage workplace stressors and enhance mental wellbeing.
- Involve employees in decision-making and problem-solving processes. For instance, involve them in identifying potential problems that exacerbate stress within the work environment and in proactively implementing solutions to improve working conditions.
- To the extent possible, create a work environment that connects with the outside world through natural light, plants, etc., and provide a versatile, flexible range of spaces. Think about ways to meet employees’ needs for quiet and privacy, as well as spaces that promote positive collaborative work activities.
- Develop and implement anti-bullying policies.
- Sponsor awareness-building and anti-stigma campaigns.
The “Working Well” Toolkit
Several awareness-building resources can be accessed through the Center for Workplace Mental Health. An initiative of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, the Center offers a range of tools to help employers create a more supportive workplace environment for people with mental health conditions.
Its “Working Well Toolkit” features lists of exemplary practices, case studies and turnkey programs you can implement in your own business, including:
- ICU Program: An anti-stigma campaign developed by DuPont designed to foster a workplace culture that supports emotional health. Its content has been donated to the Center for Workplace Mental Health for all to use.
- #IWILLLISTEN: An award-winning social media-based public service campaign designed to create awareness of the prevalence of mental illnesses and reduce stigma. Employers can bring this campaign to their companies through #IWILLLISTEN days.
- Right Direction: A creative educational initiative developed by Lundbeck designed to reduce stigma, motivate employees and their families to seek help when needed, and provide employers with appropriate support tools and resources. The initiative offers employers a wealth of free, turnkey resources ranging from content for intranet sites to template PowerPoint presentations.
- Stamp Out Stigma: An initiative spearheaded by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW) to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders.
- In Our Own Voice: This National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) program involves a 90-minute group interaction led by two group facilitators with serious mental illness who are in recovery. Facilitators present a video, share their experience and lead discussions.
- Living Well, 4Mind4Body Campaign: This Mental Health America’s (MHA) initiative provides free resources to support mental health including 10 tools to achieve wellness. In addition, MHA offers workplace wellness/health surveys through the Workplace Mental Health and Wellness portal.
- NAMI StigmaFree: This program promotes acceptance and actively challenges social stereotypes. Individuals, companies, organizations and others can all take the pledge to learn more about mental illness, to see a person for who they are and to take action on mental health issues.
- Working Minds: Offers culturally responsive, comprehensive and sustained strategies to help workplaces make mental health promotion and suicide prevention health and safety priorities. Free resources include “A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace: 10 Action Steps for Dealing with the Aftermath of Suicide,” workplace self-assessment tools and industry strategy resources.
Other Programs to Consider
- The Shatterproof Addiction Stigma Index highlights the overwhelming nature of addiction stigma, mapping its manifestations to lay the groundwork for action to address it.
- Workplace Supported Recovery Program, an initiative of the National Institute on Occupational Health and Safety (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), provides materials to help employers adopt evidence-based policies and programs to reduce substance use in the workforce.